Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to develop a succession plan

Published in The HINDU online on April, 11, 2012

Link to online article:

Many successful organisations and their leaders have a continuing concern about employee turnover in their companies. With the departure of key talent from the company, especially in management and senior roles, the future continuity and performance of the business is at risk. That is when succession planning comes in as a timely intervention to enable the organisation to function seamlessly. A succession plan is a systematic process where managers identify, assess and develop their staff to make sure that they are ready to assume key roles within the company.

Through active succession planning, employees are constantly developed to fill each key role within the company.

Here are some practical ideas on how you can develop a good succession plan that enables a smooth transition with less likelihood of disruption to operations.

Develop your employees

The first step in succession planning lies in identifying and understanding the developmental needs of your employees. Employees need to know their career paths and the roles they are being developed to fill.

It is healthy to allow your employees for lateral moves, assign them to special projects, offer team leadership roles and also internal and external training and development opportunities. You should plan on hiring superior talent and retaining top performers as this will save your organisation time, effort and resources. Be aware of the employment trends in your area to prepare for the roles that will be hard to fill externally.

Update your organisation chart

Start with updating your existing organisation chart and briefly outline what the organisation might look like once someone leaves.

For example, if your manager of information technology is leaving, who will be his/her successor? If they are internal, also outline who will fill their current position. Outline any positions that will be vacant after the reshuffle. Keep a spreadsheet or a list of all the positions in the organisation and the people that are expected to fill the position in the event of a succession. For each position outline:

Job Title

Name of the employee expected to fill the position, if unknown, you can mention ‘Vacant'

Skills required

Training requirements

Keep a succession timetable

Use a succession timetable to track all phases of the succession planning process. The phases can include, but be not limited to planning, business operations (e.g. financial/HR/legal), successor mentorship and training, handover and transition. For each phase list the specifics:

Phase description

Succession action items needed for this particular phase

Start date of the phase

End date of the phase

Conduct a risk analysis

Evaluate the risks to the succession and any contingencies that may happen. Thinking about potential pitfalls and anticipating what can go wrong while the succession plan is being implemented along with recognising the potential impact to the business will help assess the likelihood and impact of risk. As a backup, make sure that you have a contingency/alternative plan in the event that the risk happens.

Lastly, the process of succession planning is crucial to a company's survival and needs to be a part of the organisation's strategic planning process as it deals with projecting future changes along with anticipating vacancies and then determining how to meet these challenges.

The benefits to an effective and proactive succession plan will keep your company well prepared for expansion, reduction in workforce, employee promotions and transfers, organisational restructuring and most of all in building a strong talent base for continued success.

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